Pitou, Lynch honored at PSU convocation
PLYMOUTH — There are nearly 1,000 first year students entering Plymouth State University, and on Tuesday afternoon many of them were on-hand to be welcomed by staff, members of the local and state government, a skiing legend and their class president.
“Our hopes for you are so high, and they should be,” said PSU President Sara Jayne Steen.
Plymouth State University held its fall convocation yesterday, where former Olympic Silver Medal winner Penny Pitou and former Gov. John Lynch were honored with awards and gave inspirational speeches to the class of 2017.
Also addressing the students were Gov. Maggie Hassan, Select Board Chair Valerie Scarborough, Kayla Grimes, PSU student body president, Andrew Palumbo, PSU assistant vice president of enrollment management and director of admissions, Rodney Ekstrom, director of alumni relations, Christian Bisson, adventure education professor, and James Hundrieser, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs. Bisson was recently honored with PSU’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
Hassan told the students that, when she was in college, she was striving to be in the medical field. Eventually she realized that it wasn’t for her and she attended law school and then got into public service. She said that students shouldn’t fear failure or reject something in which they are interested, or are good, just because it does not follow a specific path. She said that there are no set steps for everyone in college.
“We need you to lead not only through the work you do in your careers, but also in improving your communities,” said Hassan. “We need each of you to be engaged in the citizen democracy that drives us forward.”
During the ceremony Lynch was presented the Robert Frost Contemporary American Award, which was presented by Amy Begg, PSU alumni association president, and Governor Hassan, who was also joined by President Steen. The award was created by the PSU Association and there are few recipients. It is in honor of Frost, who was a teacher at the Plymouth Normal School and a worldrenowned poet.
Lynch served as governor for four terms and had an approval rating of more than 70 percent, with Steen and former Robert Frost Award recipient May Louise Hancock saying throughout the ceremony that he was one of the most popular governors. Prior to becoming governor, Lynch was a business leader and very involved in education. He was the director of admissions at the Harvard Business Firm and also chaired the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees. Steen commended Lynch for his strong support of education in the state.
“As governor, I focused a lot on education, because for me, education is all about opportunity, the opportunity to have better lives,” Lynch said. “Education also drives economic development. I really believe here in New Hampshire we live in the greatest state in the greatest country in the world, and as governor and now exgovernor, I think about that every day.”
Pitou received the Granite State Award, which is given to citizens, agencies, corporations or foundations around the state. Before becoming the first American skier to win a medal at the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, in 1960, Pitou was a skier on the Laconia High School Ski Team. She had to pose as a boy, with her hair in her hat, and called herself Tommy before she crashed, he hat fell off, and she was discovered. She later served as the coach of the Laconia High School girls ski team.
Pitou put on her first pair of skis at 4 years old and has since been a twotime Olympian with two silver medals. She returned to New Hampshire and directed two successful ski schools, and Hillary Clinton proclaims that she taught her how to ski. She now owns Penny Pitou Travel in Laconia and organizes ski trips around the world. She is a member of the National Ski Hall of Fame.
Steen said that Pitou has never seen barriers, only problems to be solved, and then she addressed them. Steen called her a role model and said that she was a great coach and one who loved having her followers succeed.
Pitou told the PSU Class of 2017 that the best thing to do is stay true to yourself with dedication, perseverance and a lot of hard work.
“I found it was important to find a passion in my life because if I didn’t find it, someone would find it for me,” Pitou said.
For more information about Plymouth State University, log onto Plymouth.edu.